Sex and Relationships Education
CARE believes that sex and relationships education works best when parents are fully engaged both having conversations with their children at home, apart from what is happening at school, and in being fully aware of when and how this subject is being covered at school so they can follow-up at home.
This is important because the evidence suggests that children appreciate hearing about these things from their parents and good conversations with parents are actually the best protection. It is also important because in an increasingly secular environment Christian parents need to know that it is they and not the state that ultimately has responsibility for teaching their children sexual ethics.
In England and Wales the law currently requires that all secondary schools provide SRE and that all primary schools have an SRE policy, although this may be not to actively teach SRE. (That is a decision for primary school governors). Crucially in both secondary and primary schools the SRE curriculum is not determined centrally but on a school by school basis by the governors and head teacher who should consult with parents.
This decentralised approach to the curriculum is very enlightened because it provides a basis for ensuring that this important and sensitive subject is taught mindful of the ethos of the school and the religious and other needs of the children.
In CARE’s view the current system sometimes fails not because it is decentralised but because there are some design faults in the model of decentralisation. Specifically governors do not always consult with parents and they should be legally required to do so. There is, however, a strong lobby calling for decentralisation to be abandoned altogether and for a centralised curriculum to be imposed by government across all schools. This is expressed in a very confusing way by calls for sex and relationships education ‘to be made statutory.’ This makes it sound like schools are currently at liberty not to teach sex education which is not true. All secondary schools must teach it. What is meant by calls for making SRE statutory that it should be made a statutory part of the national curriculum, i.e. centralised through the national curriculum.
Both the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties have sadly committed to centralising sex and relationships education in England and Wales in the next Parliament.
If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland your successful candidate will still be able to vote on the England and Wales legislation, which may well impact what happens in Scotland and Northern Ireland, so it is still very worthwhile asking for their views.
Questions for Candidates
- Do you agree that the delivery of good SRE depends on encouraging parents to talk to their children about sex and relationships?
- Do you support the proposal by some at this election that the SRE curriculum should be centralised into a ‘one size fits all’ approach which would remove the current scope for parental involvement in shaping the local school curriculum?
- Sadly, governors do not always consult parents on the content of SRE. Would you work to enhance the current decentralised approach to the SRE curriculum by calling for the provision of a legal obligation on governors to do so?
- Do you support the principle that if parents are unhappy with a school’s chosen curriculum they should have the right to withdraw their children from the lesson?